Given that my son who is not yet four and has less than two hours of screen time a week (and yet knows exactly what screen time is and that he wants more of it) recently taught my husband how to do something on his iPad, it’s easy to see that the future involves screens. So what’s a book, a decidedly un-screened thing, to do?
Many people are talking about the future of books, and no one seems to know what to predict. It’s clear that digital books are the future. But will they exist alongside paperbacks or replace them entirely? Will books made of trees be the illumated manuscripts of the future, only to be examined in museums?
On a personal note, I would hate to see the disappearance of books. They are too much a part of my childhood, too much a part of my free time and my personal space, for me to give them up that easily. But on the other hand, maybe we are asking the wrong question. We are talking about the horse when we should be talking about transportation. We are talking about the telegraph when we should be talking about how we communicate. Maybe we are talking about books when we should be talking about stories.
Stories are not going to die. Stories have been around since Homer told The Odyssey to anyone who would sit down and listen. (And were people outraged later, when print came along, reducing that once-living epic to a fixed version of itself, subject only to minor word changes in its infinite translations?)
Stories keep us up at night, turning the pages (or maybe scrolling the screens) to find out what happens to a character we just met only a few hundred pages ago, a character that reminds us so much of ourselves that in her choices we see our own weakness and in her consequences we see our own narrowly-missed (or once-lived) fate. Stories teach us what we didn’t know about other people (that’s why she acts that way! That’s what he meant!). They teach us that some things we never thought of might be entirely possible, or even normal. Often, they teach us that what we thought weird about ourselves is normal, too. (I think that’s what most of the YA and MG genres are all about, aren’t they? Perhaps that’s why I like them so much!)
I’m curious—are you excited about the future of books you can interact with? Of carrying 1000 books in a small case on the plane with you? Or are you holding onto the past like I am, just a little bit longer? Please let me know!
About Wendy Lawrence
Wendy Lawrence is a Seattle native who is now living with her husband and two young sons in Nashville, Tenn. A longtime educator and former middle school head at Eastside Prep in Kirkland, she now blogs about parenting and books at The Family that Reads Together.